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The White Book

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,884 ratings  ·  283 reviews

From the winner of the Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian

Both the most autobiographical and the most experimental book to date from South Korean master Han Kang. Written while on a writer's residency in Warsaw, a city palpably scarred by the violence of the past, the narrator finds herself haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours

Kindle Edition, 128 pages
Published November 2nd 2017 by Granta Books (first published May 25th 2016)
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Bookdragon Sean
Music is often associated with memory. I often hear a song and I’m taken back to a time, to a place, to a person, to an experience that I never will be able to regain: to a moment that song embodies that will forever be lost in the endless river of life. For Han Kang the colour white has a similar effect; it mashes open the floodgates to her mind and drops torrents of memory over the body of her writing.

"Why do old memories constantly drift to the surface?"

Because they never leave us. Because
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I am quite unsure how to review this brilliant little book. I think it is something that needs to be experienced rather than read about. Told in a series of very short musings on different white things, Han Kang circles her own grief and Warsaw’s scarred history in a way that I found absolutely moving. I read the book mostly in one sitting (it is very short) and can only recommend doing that. This way the interplay between the blank spaces on the page, the photography, and the writing worked to ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A short and intensely personal and poetic meditation but a very difficult one to encapsulate in a review.

The starting point is a simple list of white things but the book is haunted by many darker undertones. I am not sure how much I understood but it felt profoundly human, spare and elegant, every word charged.

This is my second book from the Man Booker International longlist (I had already read Die, My Love and bought this one before it was announced).
Hmm ...

I don't know what to make of this book.

It's elegant, in a minimalist, subdued kind of way.

The font size is minuscule, there's a lot of white space and empty pages.

There are some nice passages, but also a whole lot of simple, simplistic, and "I don't get the point" kind of writing - writing for the sake of writing, or better said, I was reading it and not getting much out of it, despite wanting to.

I don't know - it's one of those "concept books".

You definitely have to be in the right ki
Paul Fulcher
Now shortlisted for the Man Booker International - and alongside Flights, one of the two outstanding remaining books:

"제발 죽지마. 한 시간쯤 더 흘러 아기는 죽었다.
죽은 아기를 가슴에 품고 모로 누워 그 몸이 점점 싸늘해지는 걸 견뎠다.

더이상 눈물이 흐르지 않았다."

"For God's sake don't die. Around an hour later, the baby was dead.
They lay there on the kitchen floor, my mother on her side with the dead baby clutched to her chest, feeling the cold gradually enter into the flesh, sinking through to the bone.

No more crying. "

Chapter 5 of 한강 (Han Kang's) qu
Gumble's Yard
In the spring, when I decided to write about white things the first thing I did was to make a list.

Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon. Rice. Waves. Yulan. White bird. “Laughing Whitely”. Blank paper. White dog. White hair. Shroud.

With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this book, and that the process of writing it would be transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swel
Eric Anderson
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It’s been thrilling to see the recent high acclaim and popularity for Han Kang’s powerful distinctive writing. She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016 for “The Vegetarian” and her novel “Human Acts” is one of the most devastating portrayals of the victims and survivors of mass warfare that I’ve read. Even though she’s been publishing fiction in her native South Korea since 1995, Kang’s writing has only recently been made widely available to a Western audience through Deborah Smith’s e ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Han Kang and Deborah Smith are a match made in heaven. I feel its genius every time I finish reading any of Kang's books in Smith's translation.
This one is a very special to me. The City she refers to in White Book, is my hometown, Warsaw.
The book at its core is a meditation on grief. Kang juxtaposes City surrounded by neverending grief after thousands of its inhabitants were killed during Warsaw uprising and herself grieving after a sister, who died two hours after birth.
Kang has been said to
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed Kang's acclaimed 'The Vegetarian', and this was so totally different in both format and style, that it came as something of a surprise. And while I could certainly 'appreciate' what she does here, I must say the results left me rather ... cold and indifferent; even though the sad event that occasions her musings here are something I can relate to, having had a stillborn older sibling myself.

Partially this has do to my dislike for spare poetic meditations, but may also be due to
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-mbi, 2018, 5-stars
This book is sublimely beautiful and heart-breaking. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried when I read these words:

"If you can come to us now, then do. Slip on those clothes that the fire has borne to you, like slipping on a pair of a wings. Drink it like medicine or tea, our silence, dissolving into smoke in place of words."

Written like that, with no context, you may wonder why the outpouring of emotion. But this is a meditation on the death of the (unnamed) narrator’s baby sister, born before
كتاب خاصى بود كه هنوز نميدونم دوستش داشتم يا نه، ولى "گياهخوار" هان كانگ چيز ديگهای بود ...more
The White Book is Han Kang's autobiographical meditation on the death of her newborn sister, who lived only for two hours. It's a difficult book to review because it's a difficult book to categorize. Part novel, part memoir, part poetry collection, The White Book ultimately comes together to form a poised and tender examination of grief and the transient nature of life and death.

If you've read The Vegetarian or Human Acts you'll know exactly what to expect from Kang's economical and unsentimenta
Viv JM
It is very difficult to describe this book! It is a series of short meditations/poetry themed around the colour white, with a thread of grief running through. The translation reads seamlessly, and the whole effect is beautiful and haunting.
Callum McAllister
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The comparisons to Maggie Nelson's Bluets will be pretty inevitable and unsurprising but here it is: this reminded me of Bluets. Although, that's only in terms of its form. It's a novel (?) written in fragments and unified thematically by meditation on the colour white.

While I read it as a novel, and not a memoir or a book of poems, it plays with that cross-pollination of genre. Some reviews have taken the details of Han Kang's life to take it as red that this is very much a memoir, but using d
Natalie (CuriousReader)
The White Book has often been described to me as ‘musings on the color white’, resembling Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets” in the way it bends and defines genres. Somewhere between essays, flash-fiction, and poetry in form; with contents of both personal and beautiful nature. The White Book opens with a list of white things, and goes on from there to become short passages on one white thing to another, expanding on what the color resembles and mirrors, as well as what it symbolizes and what meaning we g ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I loved "The Vegetarian" and "Human Acts" and was really looking forward to this. Unfortunately, this one just wasn't for me. I felt the words didn't manage to bring out the emotions behind her message of loss.
A series of short, poetic meditations on the color white. The narrator is haunted by the story of her mother’s first child, a daughter who came early and died within two hours because of their winter isolation. “I was told that she was a girl, with a face as white as a crescent-moon rice cake.” Ever since, she’s felt the weight of obligation, as if she has to live a doubly significant life to make up for her older sister’s being snatched away. Snow, ashes, pebbles, butterflies, the moon: the the ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, poetry, 한국
Somewhere between 3 and 3.5, rounded down

Three stars may seem low but this is by far my favourite book I've read by Han Kang. While I definitely admired Human Acts, something didn't quite come together. And I must admit The Vegetarian went right over my head, but on reflection I would be open to re-reading it at some point.

The White Book is quite a departure from the aforementioned books. Focusing on the colour white, the colour appears in different objects and memories, set to the backdrop of W
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Aangrijpende poëtische mijmeringen over de dood en verlies. Vorm en inhoud zijn één met een bestendig zo goed als lege bladspiegel en veel witte bladzijden: de hoofdstukjes bestaan uit enkele paragrafen en een nieuw hoofdstukje start telkens op de rechterbladzijde.
De mooie beelden sporen wel aan om ander werk van Kang te gaan lezen.
Heel jammer dat deze vertaling op de Engelse vertaling is gebaseerd (en niet op het origineel) en dat de foto's uit de Koreaanse editie hier niet zijn opgenomen. De
তানজীম Rahman)
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and elegant. Wasee Ahmed Rafi called it one of the best books he's read this year, and I completely agree.
Refreshingly original and heart-achingly honest, it's hard to define or categorize The White Book. It rises above the need for plot or characters, becoming pure writing, distilled emotion, a kind of secular prayer. It deals with the complex emotions felt by the author regarding her elder sister, who died two hours after she was born. And that mourning process is anchored in the eth
Karen Mace
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having loved The Vegetarian, I knew I needed to read this and finally got my mitts on it recently! And what a reading experience it was once more! Who knew that the subject of such simple white things - lace curtains, sugar cubes, rice, clouds... to name but a few, could conjure up such powerful images when written about so wonderfully by this author!

It covers a wide range of emotions and topics that captures the spectrum from life to death, feelings, humanity and more. I found it to be such a c
Inderjit Sanghera
A meditation on the colour white; mellifluous and meandering, ‘The White Book’ is an exquisite jewel box of a book whose iridescence shimmers with a gossamer-web of whiteness of limitless shades; from the gentle fall of snow to the soundless flap of a butterflies wing to the glaring violent whiteness of electric lights, ‘The White Book’ is about the beauty and whimsy of whiteness;
“On nights when the moon is unusually large, she can leave the curtains open and let its light flood every inch of he
Debbie Kinsey
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Han Kang’s previous novels that have been translated into English have this way of not looking at their central character or message too directly, and she circles around them, showing you different perspectives on them. This novel/non-fiction/poetry/whatever short book does do that, but also feels much more direct and personal than her other work. It’s also more experimental, so probably won’t be for everyone, but I loved it. It’s a fragmented meditation on the colour white, without a clear narr ...more
Jim Elkins
Feb 25, 2018 added it
Shelves: korean
Problems Putting Performance Art Stills into a Novel

This is a brief book with a number of blank pages and seven photographs. The narrator thinks about a sister she never knew (the sister died the day she was born). The narrator imagines her sister by thinking about white objects (snow, lace, paper, ice). The prose poems average about a half-page each, so the book is full of white spaces.

Two different comments: first on the book's images, then on its narrative.

1. The images

Terry Pitts has writte
Jonathan Pool
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
I've rarely waited so long after reading a book to post my review. I know this author is deservedly acclaimed on the strength of her back catalogue. The White Book has been universally praised by those whose opinions I respect. Why does the book leave me a bit cold, and certainly not as moved as I was after reading Human Acts?

I realise that the white packaging, the ivory paper, the sparseness of the prose is conveying a message of its own. Places and people are nameless. This is a story about d
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Han Kang does it again. My copy is highlighted to a point that I think less of the book is blank than marked. This was beautiful.
Marianne Søiland
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Annerledes shortstories med fargen hvit som gjennomgangstema.
Omtale på bloggen min her:
Femke Zwiep
ik heb echt het gevoel dat er iets belangrijks in de vertaling verloren is gegaan
A surprsingly poetic collection of thoughts, musings and memories that reflects on life, death and everything in between. The colour white could be pure, fragile, cold and emotionless, but Hang Kangs's little impressions are haunting, atmospheric and evocative.
I just found the black and white photos scattered here and there in the book too detached and not delicate enough. Even surgical.


In the distance, the surface of the water bulges
upwards. The winter sea mounts its approach, surging
Nadia Ghanem
Han Kang's latest work is a lot more experimental that I had expected and the form just did not work for me.

I was expecting that it would be as magical and biting as The Vegetarian in terms of how the narrative would be constructed, but The White Book is quite different.

The White Book is written like a list with a series of entries and thoughts about them. Each entry bears the name of a thing that is white in colour and that Han Kang has associated with a particularly sad event. Why white? Prim
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The Mookse and th...: 2018 MBI Shortlist: The White Book 18 53 Apr 29, 2018 12:33PM  
ManBookering: The White Book by Han Kang 21 81 Mar 25, 2018 08:10AM  
소설가 한강

Han Kang is the daughter of novelist Han Seung-won. She was born in Kwangju and at the age of 10, moved to Suyuri (which she speaks of affectionately in her work "Greek Lessons") in Seoul.

She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. She began her writing career when one of her poems was featured in the winter issue of the quarterly Literature and Society. She made her official liter
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“Standing at this border where land and water meet, watching the seemingly endless recurrence of the waves (though this eternity is in fact illusion: the earth will one day vanish, everything will one day vanish), the fact that our lives are no more than brief instants is felt with unequivocal clarity.” 5 likes
On cold mornings, that first white cloud of escaping breath is proof that we are living. Proof of our bodies’ warmth. Cold air rushes into dark lungs, soaks up the heat of our body and is exhaled as perceptible form, white flecked with grey. Our lives’ miraculous diffusion, out into the empty air.”
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